ExpressionEngine® User Guide

Wrapping Templates in Layouts

Basic Usage

In addition to embedding templates within each other, you can also create shared layouts for your templates. A layout can be thought of as a wrapping template or a reverse embed. To use a template you use the {layout=""} tag at the top of your template:

{layout="template_group/template"}

Where “template_group” is the name of the group and “template” is the name of the template. You must include both the template group and the template name in the layout tag. For example:

{layout="site/wrapper"}

This will use the “wrapper” template in the “site” template group as a a layout for the current template. In the layout itself you must now specify a location where the template contents will be shown. This is done using the “layout:contents” tag:

{layout:contents}

Note

The layout tag must come before any module or plugin tags.

Simple Example

The most common usage for layouts is to provide the skeleton structure of your site. With embeds, this can be done with using a header and footer embed on each template:

{embed="site/_header"}

{exp:channel:entries channel="news"}
  <h2>{title}</h2>
  {summary}
{/exp:channel:entries}

{embed="site/_footer"}

With a “site/_header” template:

<html>
  <head>
    <title>News Site</title>
  </head>
  <body>

And a “site/_footer” template:

  </body>
</html>

As you add more code to your header and footer templates this approach can become a little messy. With layouts, we can define our header and footer in a single template called “site/_html-layout” in this example:

<html>
  <head>
    <title>News Site</title>
  </head>
  <body>
    {layout:contents}
  </body>
</html>

You can now write the main template using a single layout tag instead of two embeds:

{layout="site/_html-layout"}

{exp:channel:entries channel="news"}
  <h2>{title}</h2>
  {summary}
{/exp:channel:entries}

Notice that the layout is a hidden template. This lets you prevent direct access to the layout template, which is most likely not useful to your users on its own.

Layout Variables

Parameter Variables

In the layout tag you can use parameters to pass additional data to your layout template:

{layout="site/_html-layout" color="blue"}

In your layout this will be available as a {layout:color} tag:

I drive a {layout:color} car.

Important

The name contents is reserved for the template data.

Dynamic Variables

Layout tags should be placed as high in the template as possible and they must be used before any module or plugin ({exp: }) tags. This restriction presents a problem when trying to pass data from a module to your layout.

In order to get around this problem, layout variables can be set throughout the template using the {layout:set} tag:

{layout:set name="color" value="red"}

The name parameter specifies the name of the variable and the value parameter contains the data you want to pass to the layout. Using this tag will override any equally named parameters on the main {layout=""} tag.

You can also set variables using a tag pair; this is useful for capturing the output of plugin or module tags. With the tag pair you do not need the value parameter, instead the data inside the pair will be used as the variable value. The name parameter must still be given:

{layout="site/_html-layout"}

{exp:channel:entries channel="colors" limit="1"}
  {title}
  {layout:set name="color"}{title}{/layout:set}
{/exp:channel:entries}

The {layout:set} tag will always be fully removed from your template so you must show the data you are saving separately.

Note

Using {layout:set} in a looping tag pair will populate the value of the layout variable with the last element of the pair.

Expanded Example

The previous example can be made more dynamic by using layout variables. Your layout can now respond to the template that it is wrapping. For example, you could use variables to dynamically update the browser window’s title:

<html>
  <head>
    <title>Site Name{if layout:title != ''} | {layout:title}{/if}</title>
  </head>
  <body>
    {layout:contents}
  </body>
</html>

By using a conditional we have made the title parameter optional. If the parameter is not given, or is blank, the title will simply be “Site Name”. Any template using this layout can choose to add to the output of the title tag using the parameter. You can even take it a step further. After setting a default section title in the parameter you can override it dynamically based on what your template is currently showing:

{layout="site/_html-layout" title="News"}

{exp:channel:entries channel="news"}
  <h2>{title}</h2>

  {if total_results == "1"}
    {body}
    {layout:set name="title" value="News | {title}"}
  {if:else}
    {summary}
  {/if}
{/exp:channel:entries}

Your title for this template will now show “Site Name | News” unless a single news entry is being displayed, in which case it will show a more user friendly title of “Site Name | News | Article Title”. Unlike header and footer embeds, this can all be done using a single Channel Entries loop which will improve the overall performance of this template.

Nesting and Embeds

Nested Layouts

Each template on your site can only specify a single layout. However, each layout can also use a layout, thus progressively nesting your template. For more complex sites this allows you to have a single HTML wrapper and still take advantage of layouts to build out the different sections of your site.

Layouts and Embeds

Layouts and embeds can be used together to create complex template hierarchies. When building nested template structures you should keep your layouts general and avoid nesting embeds or layouts too deeply. A good implementation will be easy to read and easy to follow. This will make your site more maintainable and it will help you spot performance bottlenecks more quickly.

It is important to understand how layouts and embeds can affect each other. Layouts are processed before embeds, so that setting a layout variable inside an embed cannot affect the layout of the embedding template. If an embed is using a layout, then the embed will be wrapped by that layout before being placed in the embedding template. Setting a layout variable inside the embed will be usable by the embed’s layout and that layout will have full access to the variables passed to the embed.

  Read Embed Variables Set Embed Layout Variables Set Parent Layout Variables
Embedded Template Yes Yes No
Parent Template No Yes
Embed Layout Yes No
Parent’s Layout No No

Complex Example

Putting all of these together lets you create flexible page layouts with multiple dynamic sections. This example will add a sidebar and footer to the news example above.

We will keep the existing “site/_html-layout” from before, with a small addition to allow for additional JavaScript and CSS to be set from the template:

<html>
  <head>
    <title>Site Name{if layout:title != ''} | {layout:title}{/if}</title>

    <link rel="stylesheet" href="/assets/global.css" type="text/css" />
    {layout:css}
  </head>
  <body>
    {layout:contents}
    {layout:js}
  </body>
</html>

For the news section we will now have a separate layout that defines the structure of a given news page. Let’s call it “news/_layout”:

{layout="site/_html-layout"}
{layout:set name="title"}News{if layout:title != ''} | {layout:title}{/if}{/layout:set}

{layout:set name="css"}
  <link rel="stylesheet" href="/assets/news.css" type="text/css" />
{/layout:set}

<div id="wrapper">
  <div id="main">
    {layout:contents}
  </div>

  <aside>
    {layout:sidebar}
  </aside>
</div>

Our news homepage “news/index” will use the news layout to show a list of recent entries and also provide a search box in the sidebar. We will use an embed for the search and come back to it later:

{layout="news/_layout" title="Recent"}

{exp:channel:entries channel="news" limit="30" dynamic="no"}
  <h2><a href="{url_title_path='news/article'}">{title}</a></h2>
  {summary}
{/exp:channel:entries}

{layout:set name="sidebar"}
  {embed="news/_embed-search"}
{/layout:set}

We will use the “news/article” template to display the full article and change the sidebar to show an article list in addition to the search:

{layout="news/_layout"}

{exp:channel:entries channel="news" require_entry="yes"}
  {layout:set name="title" value="{title}"}

  <h1>{title}<h1>
  {body}
{/exp:channel:entries}

{layout:set name="sidebar"}
  {embed="news/_embed-search"}
  {embed="news/_embed-recent-articles"}
{/layout:set}

For each element in the sidebar we will have a small piece of wrapping code in a layout, “news/_sidebar-layout”:

<div class="sidebar-item">
  <header>{layout:header}</header>
  {layout:contents}
</div>

Now we can create “news/_embed-search” using the Simple Search Form tag:

{layout="news/_sidebar-layout" header="Search"}

{exp:search:simple_form channel="news"}
  <input type="search" name="keywords" maxlength="100">
  <input type="submit" value="Submit">
{/exp:search:simple_form}

And “news/_embed-recent-articles”:

{layout="news/_sidebar-layout" header="Recent Articles"}

<ul>
  {exp:channel:entries channel="news" limit="10" dynamic="no" disable="custom_fields"}
    <li>{title}</li>
  {/exp:channel:entries}
</ul>